YORK is somewhat connected with the history of the continental congress, for that body sat here some months during the revolution. It is to this that General La - Fayette alluded when, being in York on the 2d of February 1825, he called it "the seat of the American Union in our most gloomy times.''
On the 14th of September 1777, Congress, then sitting at Philadelphia, and having strong reasons to believe that that city would soon be in possession of the British, resolved that, if they should be obliged to remove from Philadelphia, Lancaster should be the place where they would meet. On the 18th of September Congress sat as usual, and after having fulfilled the regular hours of daily service, adjourned to 10 o'clock the next morning; but during the adjournment the president received a letter from Col. Hamilton, one of Gen. Washington's aids, which intimated the necessity of removing the Congress immediately from Philadelphia. Upon this the members left the city, and agreeably to a former resolution, repaired to Lancaster. Philadelphia was shortly afterwards, viz, on the 27th of September, taken by Sir William Howe, which shewed the wisdom and foresight of Congress in leaving that capital.
Congress met at Lancaster on the 27th of September, (the very day Philadelphia was taken) but as they had good reasons for fearing molestation even in that place, they determined that the Susquehanna should flow between them and the enemy, and accordingly, on the same day, adjourned to York*. The first day of their session at York was the 30th of September 1777.
Congress continued about nine months, to hold their sessions in this place and in the same court house which now stands. In June 1778, the British evacuated Philadelphia and marched into New Jersey, and of this Congress received information on the 20th of the same month, by a letter from Gen. Washington. They sat in York but a few days longer, for on Saturday the 27th of June 1778 they adjourned to Philadelphia, at which place they met on the 7th of July following.
Among the other business transacted by Congress during its session in York, we find the following items recorded in the Journals:
October 4, 1777.
Resolved, that a letter be written to General Gates, informing him that Congress highly approve of the prowess and behaviour of the troops under his command, in their late gallant repulse of the enemy under General Burgoyne.
Resolved, That the thanks of Congress be presented to General Stark of the New-Hampshire militia, and the officers and troops under his command, for their brave and successful attack upon, and signal victory over the enemy in their lines at Bennington; and that Brigadier Stark be appointed a Brigadier General in the army of the United States.
October 6, 1777.
Resolved, That it be recommended to the legislatures of the several states to pass laws, declaring that any person, his aider or abettor, who shall wilfully and maliciously burn or destroy, or attempt or conspire to burn or destroy, any magazine of provisions, or of military or naval stores, belonging to the United States; or if any master, officer, seaman, mariner or other person, intrusted with the navigation or care of any Continental vessel, shall wilfully and maliciously burn or destroy or attempt or conspire to burn or destroy, any such vessel, or shall wilfully betray, or voluntarily yield or deliver, or attempt to conspire to betray, yield or deliver, any such vessel to the enemies of the United States, such person his aider or abettor, on legal conviction thereof shall suffer death without benefit of clergy.
October 8, 1777.
Resolved, Unanimously, that the thanks of Congress be given to General Washington for his wise and well concerted attack upon the enemy's army near Germantown on the 4th instant, and to the officers and soldiers of the army for their brave exertions on that occasion: Congress being well satisfied that the best designs anti boldest efforts may sometime fail by unforseen incidents, trusting that on future occasions the valour and virtue of the army will by the blessing of heaven be crowned with complete and deserved success.
October 14, 1777.
Whereas the British nation have received into their ports, and condemned in their courts of admiralty as lawful prize several vessels and their cargoes belonging to these states, which the mariners, in breach of the trust and confidence reposed in them, have betrayed and delivered to the officers of the British crown:
Resolved, therefore, That any vessel or cargo, the property of any British subject, not an inhabitant of Bermuda or of any of the Bahama Islands, brought into any of the ports or harbours of any of these United States by the masters or mariners, shall be adjudged a lawful prize & divided among the captors in the same proportion as if taken by any continental vessel of war.
October 17, 1777.
Resolved, That the committee of intelligence be authorized to take the most speedy and effectual measures for getting a printing press erected in Yorktown, for the purpose of conveying to the public the intelligence that Congress may from time to time receive.
October 31, 1777.
The secretary laid before Congress a copy of the speech with which Mr. Hancock took leave of Congress, which was ordered to be entered on the Journals and is as follows:
'Gentlemen, Friday last completed two years and five months since you did me the honor of electing me to fill this chair. As I could never flatter myself your choice proceeded from any idea of my abilities, but rather from a partial opinion of my attachment to the liberties of America, I felt myself under the strongest obligations to discharge the duties of the office, and I accepted the appointment with the firmest resolution to go through the business annexed to it in the best manner I was able. Every argument conspired to make me exert myself, and I endeavored by industry and attention to make up for every other deficiency.
'As to my conduct both in and out of Congress in the execution of your business, it is improper for me to say any thing. You are the best judges. But I think I shall be forgiven if I say I have spared no pains, expense, or labour to gratify your wishes, and to accomplish the views of Congress.
'My health being much impaired, I find some relaxation absolutely necessary after such constant application; I must therefore request your indulgence for leave of absence for two months,
'But I cannot take my departure, gentlemen, without expressing my thanks for the civility and politeness I have experienced from you. It is impossible to mention this without a heart felt pleasure.
'If in the course of so long a period as I have had the honor to fill this chair, any expressions may have dropped from me that may have given the least offence to any member, as it was not intentional, so I hope his candor will pass it over.
'May every happiness, gentlemen, attend you, both as members of this house and as individuals; and I pray Heaven that unanimity and perseverance may go hand in hand in this house; and that every thing which may tend to distract or divide your councils be for ever banished.'
It was then resolved "That the thanks of Congress be presented to John Hancock, esquire, for the unremitted attention and steady impartiality which he has manifested in discharge of various duties of his office as president since his election to the chair on the 24th day of May 1775."
November 1, 1777.
Congress proceeded to the election of a president; and the ballots being taken,
The honorable Henry Laurens was elected.
November 4, 1777.
Resolved, That the thanks of Congress in their own name, and in behalf of the inhabitants of the thirteen United States, be presented to Major General Gates, commander in chief in the northern department, and to the Majors General Lincoln and Arnold and the rest of the officers and troops under his command, for their brave and successful efforts in support of the independence of their country, whereby an army of the enemy of ten thousand men has been totally defeated, one large detachment of it, that strongly posted and entrenched, having been conquered at Bennington, another repulsed with loss and disgrace from fort Schuyler, and the main army of six thousand men, under Lieut. General Burgoyne, after being beaten in different actions and driven from a formidable post and strong entrenchments, reduced to the necessity of surrendering themselves upon terms honorable and advantageous to these states on the 17th day of October last, to Major General Gates; and that a medal of gold be struck under the direction of the board of war in commemoration of this great event, and in the name of these United States presented by the president to Major General Gates.
Resolved, That General Washington be informed, it is highly agreeable to Congress that the Marquis De La Fayette be appointed to the command of a division in the continental army.
December 11, 1777.
The board of war report, "that in their opinion the public interest will be promoted by erecting in the town of York, temporary barracks or sheds sufficient for containing six hundred men, for the purpose of accommodating such recruits and other troops as may from time to time stationed or detained at the said place, either as guards or for the purpose of equipment and discipline:" whereupon
Resolvcd, That the board of war be directed to cause the said barracks or sheds to be erected, with all possible dispatch, and in the most reasonable manner they can devise.
January 14, 1778,
Whereas baron Steuben, a lieutenant general in foreign service, has in a most disinterested and heroic manner offered his services to these states in the quality of a volunteer:
Resolved, That the president present the thanks of Congress in behalf of these United States to baron Steuben, for the zeal he has shown for the cause of America, & the disinterested tender he has been pleased to make of his military talents; & inform him, that Congress cheerfully accept of his service as a volunteer in the army of these states, and wish him to repair to General Washington's quarters as soon as convenient.
February 6, 1778.
That Mathew Clarkson and Major John Clark be appointed auditors for the army under the command of General Washington; and that they be authorized to appoint two clerks, and allow each of them fifty dollars a month and two rations a day.
March 28, 1778
Resolved, That count Pulaski retain his rank of brigadier in the army of the United States, and that he raise and have the command of an independent corps to consist of sixty-eight horse, and two hundred foot, the horse to be armed with lances, and the foot equipped in the manner of light infantry: the corps to be raised in such a way and composed of such men as General Washington shall think expedient and proper; and if it shall be thought by General Washington, that it will not be injurious to the service, that he have liberty to dispense in this particular instance with the resolve of Congress against enlisting deserters.
June 12, 1778.
Congress being informed that Mr. P. Livingston, one of the delegates for the state of New York, died last night, and that circumstances require him to be interred this evening;
Resolved, That Congress will in a body attend the funeral this evening at six o'clock, with a crape around the arm, and will continue in mourning for the space of one month.
June 27, 1778.
Adjourned to Thursday next, to meet at the State-House in Philadelphia.
In conclusion of this article we will mention the members of congress from York county, under the Constitution of the United States, done in convention on the 17th of September 1787.
Thomas Hartley was the first: he was elected in 1788, and continued a member of Congress until the time of his death, on the 21st of December 1800.
John Stewart, was elected by special election on the 15th of January 1801, to supply the place of Thomas Hartley deceased: and. was re-elected in October 1802.
James Kelley was elected in October 1804, and was reelected in October 1806.
William Crawford was elected in October 1808, and was re-elected in 1810.
Hugh Glasgow was elected in October 1812, and was reelected in October 1814.
Jacob Spengler was elected in October 1816.
Jacob Hostetter was elected in March 1818, to fill the place of Jacob Spengler resigned: he was re-elected in October of the same year.
James S. Mitchell was elected in October of the years 1822, and 1834.
Adam King was elected in October, 1826, and re-elected in 1828 and 1830.
Charles A. Barnitz was elected in 1832.
* The treasury hooks, papers, money &c. were carried from Philadelphia to Bristol, and round by Reading to Lancaster, and thence to Yorktown.
See "Journal of Congress" for Nov. 28, 1777.
This circuitous route was on account of fear that they should fall into the hands of the enemy, who were at that time in Chester county still fresh from the battle of Brandywine.
Source: Page(s) 75- 81, History of York County From its Erection to the Present Time; [1729-1834]; New Edition; With Additions, Edited by A. Monroe Aujrand, Jr.